Monthly Archives: July 2014

Japan playing catch-up to China in Latin America

Abe playing catch-up to China as he travels to Latin America seeking allies

July 25, 2014
by Atsushi Hiroshima, Takashi Funakoshi, and Nozomu Hayashi

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked on a five-nation Latin America tour starting July 25 in the hopes of gaining diplomatic allies, but he will likely find that China has already made even stronger inroads in the region.

“He (Abe) will try to make allies for Japan within the international community,” said a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official in regards to the major objective of the trip.

The prime minister will visit Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Chile and Brazil during the trip, which ends Aug. 4.

The tour comes on the heels of a similar trip made by Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month to Central and South America.

Xi visited Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba from July 15 in a similar bid to strengthen ties there.

The Chinese leader’s generous offers of funding for social infrastructure projects were heartily welcomed by his hosts.

Last year, Xi visited Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico, demonstrating the importance of the region to China.

Abe will clearly have his work cut out for him in trying to establish stronger ties with Latin American nations.

For example, trade between China and Brazil is already about five times greater than that between Japan and Brazil. China is also clearly ahead of Japan in terms of providing economic assistance.

About the only avenue left open for Abe will be to emphasize the sharing of such fundamental values as democracy and human rights.

Abe has visited 42 nations in the 19 months he has served as prime minister since assuming office for a second time in December 2012.

“(Latin America) was a continent (region) that had not been covered until now as we were pursuing our strategic diplomacy,” said a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official.

Abe will be accompanied by a delegation from Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), including its chairman, Sadayuki Sakakibara.

He hopes to broaden Japan’s influence in Latin America by developing cooperative relationships with regional organizations.

In that vein, the first summit meeting will be held on July 28 in Trinidad and Tobago when Abe meets with the leaders of the 15 member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

While the individual states in the Caribbean may be small, they constitute a major voting bloc in international organizations.

Abe hopes to gain the understanding and cooperation of that bloc as Japan seeks support ahead of the autumn 2015 election to choose nonpermanent members to sit on the U.N. Security Council.

He is expected to ask the leaders of CARICOM for their support in that election.

China, however, has taken that strategy one step further. It recently established a forum with CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which is made up of 33 nations from Central and South America.

An agreement was reached during the China-CELAC Forum to seek greater political dialogue and expand trade. China expressed its intention to provide $10 billion (1.017 trillion yen) in loans for social infrastructure projects at the forum, with the aim of increasing that amount to $20 billion in the future.

Xi also used the summit meeting earlier this month in Brazil of the newly emerging economies known as BRICS, which include China and Brazil, to criticize Abe for his stance on the historical interpretation of the shared history of Japan and China.

“We must never allow any force to overturn the history of military aggression,” Xi said at the meeting.

(This article was written by Atsushi Hiroshima and Takashi Funakoshi in Tokyo and Nozomu Hayashi in Beijing.)


Aljazeera – The BRICS bank: Multipolarity or Beijing Consensus?

No longer just a catchy acronym – initially designed to assist institutional investors in exploring new investment opportunities in the developing world – the BRIC grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China) has emerged as a serious contender on the global stage. To expand their geographical scope, the BRIC, which began their first summit in 2009, became BRICS by admitting South Africa to their group in 2011.

Within a decade from the publication of Goldman Sachs’ economist Jim O’Neill’s paper, Building Better Global Economic BRICS, the world’s leading emerging powers have gradually established alternative global institutions to the western-dominated Bretton Woods system. During their latest summit in Brazil, they agreed to establish a New Development Bank (NDB), with a staggering $100bn in its coffers. The NDB is poised to finance infrastructure and development projects across the developing world with a focus on sustainable development, where the emphasis will be more on job creation and poverty alleviation.

Bearing in mind the debilitating impact of the 2007-2008 Great Recession, and earlier episodes of debt crises across the developing world, the BRICS have also created a joint cushion against prospective disruptions in global capital markets by establishing a $100bn Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), allowing member countries to access much-needed funds during crisis periods. The CRA’s greater relevance lies in the fact that it paves the way for emerging powers to pool their massive foreign exchange reserves together, giving them greater flexibility in crafting their national monetary policies as well as enhancing their leverage in global financial markets.

The BRICS’ rising global prominence, however, doesn’t necessarily reflect the emerging powers’ determination to upend the existing liberal international order. After all, China and India have been among the biggest beneficiaries of economic globalisation, absorbing unprecedented amounts of foreign direct investments (FDIs) in recent decades. Commodity-driven economies of South Africa, Russia, and Brazil, in turn, are largely dependent on continued expansion in rapidly developing countries such as China as well as the more traditional western markets.

The BRICS’ aim, instead, is to complement the existing gaps in the global financial system, lobby for greater influence in International Financial Institutions (IFIs), and provide an alternative voice to the West on international security issues, ranging from the Iranian nuclear programme to the Israel-Palestine conflict. But given the sheer dominance of China within the grouping, there is a lingering concern that the BRICS will end up reinforcing Beijing’s purported battle for global dominance.

Global south 2.0

The BRICS combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rivals that of the US and the European Union or EU. By contributing to almost 50 percent of world GDP growth in the past decade, they have practically served as the locomotive of global economic expansion.

The BRICS dwarf the West in terms of demographics and geographical scope, encompassing 46 percent of the world’s population and 26 percent of its land mass. In many ways, one could argue that the BRICS is a better reflection of the international community than many global institutions, particularly the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which continue to be dominated by the triangular alliance of Washington, Tokyo, and Brussels.

In the heady aftermath of the 2007-2008 Great Recession, the Obama administration took the fateful decision to transform the G20 – the grouping of the world’s 20 most influential economies – into the primary platform for coordinating global economic policies. The decision effectively ended the controversial reign of the G8 – a club of primarily western industrial powers – which became increasingly anachronistic in a multipolar global economy.

The elevation of the G20, which encompasses most non-western powers, was supposed to be followed up by greater reforms within the IFIs, which stubbornly fail to reflect the rising economic contribution of emerging powers such as China. The G20’s greatest achievement was the prevention of a global economic depression by facilitating the coordination of counter-cyclical economic measures among the world’s leading nations.

But western powers continued to resist any major reforms in the international system, with the IMF and World Bank still dominated by Brussels and the US: The heads of the IMF and World Bank are still, respectively, European and American, while China’s (the world’s second largest economy) voting shares in the IMF are comparable to European countries. The BRICS establishment of their own NDB and CRA is an attempt to directly challenge the existing order, pressuring the West to consider deeper reforms in the IFIs.

Unlike the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a largely symbolic gathering of the developing world, the BRICS has displayed greater internal coherence and geopolitical heft. The BRICS is a potent expression of 20th century third-world and south-to-south solidarity movements in the 21st century. In short, the BRICS reflects a more muscular and assertive global south. Down the road, other emerging powers such as Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, and Iran could also chip in. Therefore, the BRICs could represent the beginning of a new end, as non-western powers demand greater voice within the existing the global architecture of governance.

A global ‘Beijing Consensus’?

A deeper look at the BRICS, however, reveals a more complicated picture. China overwhelmingly outshines all its peers. China’s GDP, poised to be the world’s biggest in coming months, and foreign exchange reserves, standing at almost $4 trillion, is greater than those of India, Russia, and Brazil combined.

It was precisely such undisputable dominance that encouraged India to vociferously oppose, among other things, China’s plans to place the NDB headquarters in Shanghai – a top contenderto replace New York as the world’s financial center in coming decades.

China’s contribution to the CRA ($41bn) also dwarfs the contribution of other members. While the BRICS have sought to strike a compromise on the management of the NDB and CRA – for instance, India will serve as the first president of the NDB, with Brazil and Russia heading the board of directors and governors, respectively – China will undoubtedly hold huge sway – if not a de facto veto – over the direction of BRICS’ development programmes.

In recent decades, China has already presented a direct challenge to the Bretton Woods system by establishing what Sinologist Joshua Cooper Ramo calls the “Beijing Consensus”. To quench its voracious appetite for raw materials, China has strategically deployed massive amounts of soft loans and development aid across the world, especially Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa, without any stringent demands for political and macroeconomic reforms from recipient countries.

This has allowed China to become major player in the global extractive industry, a top trading partner for commodity-driven economies, and a key source of infrastructure funds and technology for much of the developing world.

Confronting western sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis, Russia has become increasingly more dependent on China in terms of energy trade and capital. For Brazil, South Africa, and India, which are contending with a combination of economic downturn and domestic political discontent, China has become an even more indispensable economic partner. Relishing its global economic dominance, China has become more territorially ambitious, pushing its maritime claims across the Western Pacific with greater assertiveness – and relentlessly pursuing its vision of becoming America’s sole global peer.

Overall, the BRICS’ new development institutions carry the promise of becoming major sources of capital for the developing world, which is in dire need of infrastructural development. But China’s dominance within the grouping could complicate their professed goals for establishing a democratic global architecture of governance. Quite ironically, an internally imbalanced BRICS has sought to create a more balanced global order.

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BRICS Creates “New Development Bank”

DW – Emerging economies launch development bank

A new international development bank and multi-billion emergency lending pool will be setup by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The move comes at a summit meeting of BRICS leaders in Brazil.

Brasilien Fortaleza BRICS Treffen 15.07.2014

The “New Development Bank” (NDB) is intended to compete with the World Bank and its private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), by making it easier and quicker for developing countries to gain access to large-scale financing for infrastructure projects.

The BRICS will also set up a $100 billion (73.5 billion euros) joint US dollar currency reserve pool called the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), in order to provide emergency cash to BRICS countries faced with short-term currency crises or balance-of-payments problems, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has told reporters in Moscow.

Competition for World Bank and IMF

The two new BRICS institutions are intended to provide developing countries with alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which are headquartered politically as well as physically in the US capital.

BRICS countries on road to form new economic power bloc

When the IMF or World Bank lend money, strings are invariably attached, and those strings tend to reflect the values and interests of Washington and its allies, in Sussex, UK.

The BRICS are trying to free themselves and other developing countries from US dominance. Building new shared institutions is a key aspect of that effort.

The NDB, whose $50-billion initial capital will be contributed equally by the five BRICS nations, is intended to offer infrastructure construction loans with fewer restrictions and delays than World Bank loans.

Itaipu dam in BrazilWill the New Development Bank have less stringent lending criteria for infrastructure Projects than the World Bank?

Some analysts, like Reuters Breakingviews columnist Andy Mukherjee, worry that NDB lending might prove less careful than the World Bank about vetting projects on sustainability criteria. The NDB “could help ease the $1.4 trillion-a-year infrastructure financing gap in developing nations,” Mukherjee has written, but also “could open the doors wide for projects that are social and environmental disasters”.

The CRA’s mission parallels that of the IMF. It will provide emergency funds to governments faced with a sudden shortage of hard currency – especially of US dollars, the dominant currency in global trade and finance.

Developing-country financial crises can occur when international investors suddenly pull large amounts of hard currency out of a country because of worries over its banking system’s solvency, a change in interest rates, or some other financial factor.

Myanmar copper mine in MonywaA nation can run into dollar shortages if the price of its main export collapses

Crises can also result from a sudden drop in the price of a developing country’s main export. For example, a drop in the price of oil or copper can lead to balance-of-payments problems.

A key question is how the CRA’s lending conditions will differ from the IMF’s. For decades, IMF emergency loans have been extended to developing countries only if they have agreed to limit public spending, open their economies to foreign investment, abolish tariffs, deregulate markets, privatize state-owned firms, and take other measures consistent with the so-called ” ” economic policy agenda.

Some economists, such as Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, argue that Washington Consensus policies in many of the countries where they have been applied, by causing under-investment in infrastructure, health and education as governments slash spending.

It’s too early to tell whether the CRA will drop the Washington Consensus and apply substantially different lending criteria. Jose Alfredo Graca Lima, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro that the CRA would be modeled on the Chiang Mai Initiative of southeast Asian countries.

IMF logo in Washington DCIt’s not yet clear whether the NDB will have substantially different lending criteria than the IMF

The Chiang Mai Initiative, an emergency currency fund established by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in May 2000, remains strongly linked to the IMF: only 40 percent of a member’s borrowing quota can be accessed without the member agreeing to an IMF policy program.

China will draw on its huge US dollar reserves to provide the lion’s share of funding to the CRA. China will contribute $41 billion, Brazil, Russia and India will each contribute $18 billion, and South Africa $5 billion to CRA’s initial capital.

Failure to reform World Bank and IMF led BRICS to act

The World Bank and IMF were set up in the aftermath of the Second World War, to provide funding for the reconstruction of Europe. The governing councils of the World Bank and IMF include representatives from many nations, but they are still dominated by the US and its European allies. In recent years, with the economic rise of China, Brazil and other emerging countries, the calls for increased representation of BRICS countries in World Bank and IMF governing councils have grown louder.

Four years ago, a draft deal was reached to restructure the World Bank and IMF’s governing boards to increase the influence of China and other emerging nations. However, the deal requires approval by US lawmakers, and the US Congress has refused to pass the required enabling legislation.

IMF and Wolrd Bank 2014 spring meetingNations participating in this year’s IMF spring meeting strongly criticised Washington’s failure to reform IMF governance for better representation of emerging countries

Developing countries are fed up. At the annual meeting of the IMF’s International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) in Washington in April 2014, chaired by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the deputy prime minister of Singapore, IMFC members – most of them high-ranking officials of developing countries – released saying “we are deeply disappointed with the continued delay in progressing the IMF quota and governance reforms”. They added that “alternatives to move forward with the reforms must be found whilst the major shareholder” – the US – “does not solve its political problems.”

The BRICS’ decision to provide competition to the World Bank and IMF by setting up the NDB and CRA could put increased pressure on Washington to stop dragging its feet on adopting the reforms.

Click here for the original article.

New Media and Latin American Violent Movements

Another great piece, by W. ALEJANDRO SÁNCHEZ AND KELLY MORRISON, JUL 2 2014

The Commons Lab, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars recently published a provocative article entitled “New Terrorism and New Media.” In his discussion, Professor Gabriel Weimann of Haifa University in Israel focuses on insurgent movements such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. His work explains how terrorist movements utilize social media outlets, such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to expand the reach of their ideology and attract new converts.

According to Weimann, social media is different than traditional internet resources because, with social media, terrorists are able to directly target individual followers. Thus, social media has increased the number of “lone wolf terrorists,” namely individuals who commit terrorist acts without being connected to a particular terrorist organization. With the rise of social media, Weimann argues that the war on terror has become increasingly “vital, dynamic, and ferocious,” and creates a new front in the struggle for international security.

However, the use of social media and new technology is not limited to violent groups in the Greater Middle East. Thus, the authors of this article would like to expand upon Weimann’s research by discussing how criminal groups in Latin America have also been successful at utilizing new media resources.

A Game of Definitions

Weimann’s discussion focuses on terrorist movements in the Arab world. It is essential to note that the same general term “terrorists” cannot be applied to the criminals that currently operate in Latin America. Rather, Latin American criminal groups include narco-insurgents like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia, Shining Path in Peru, the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FBL) in Venezuela, and the Paraguay People’s Army in Paraguay.

Mexico’s main criminal groups are drug trafficking organizations. These cartels include the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas, the Knights Templar, the Gulf Cartel, and New Generation. Additionally, Central America has its own share of criminal organizations. Maras, as they are known, are multinational gangs that have branches in countries ranging from the United States to South America.

For simplicity’s sake, we will utilize the term “violent movements” to encompass this vast number of criminal entities.

The Rise of the Latino Netizen

Latin America has experienced an explosion of internet activity in recent years. Some quick statistics help put this situation in the proper perspective. The World Bank estimated that the region had 581 million citizens in 2012, and a 2013 analysis by ComScore found that “Latin America had the fastest growing internet population, increasing… to more than 147 million unique visitors in March 2013.” Due to this increasing online presence, several institutions have carried out comprehensive analyses on internet usage in the region. Most recently, the Organization of American States and the internet security company Symantec published a major analysis entitled “Latin American + Caribbean Cyber Security Trends,” which focused on the rise of cybercrime in the Western Hemisphere, such as social media scams.

As Weimann notes, the internet and social media are valuable resources for criminal groups in general. When one considers the rising population of Latin American netizens, it is understandable why the region’s violent movements have turned to such resources to further their agendas.

Colombia: The FARC and ELN’s Virtual Presence

The FARC is Latin America’s oldest insurgent movement and will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. The movement’s strength has declined during the past decade and a half; its membership has shrunk from around 16,000 in the late 1990s to an estimated 8,000 today, and it has lost several of its leaders in recent years.

Even though the FARC has been severely weakened, the group remains a major force in Colombia and it has an active online presence. Its main online outlet is its own webpage. The FARC’s website has a section that discusses the history of this organization and another page devoted to press releases, most of which praise the FARC and critique the Colombian government. For example, the FARC published a statement on its website announcing that it declared a unilateral cease-fire from June 9 to June 30 of this year due to the ongoing electoral process in Colombia. The website even has a “Contact Us” form where individuals can send inquiries to contact FARC commanders for interviews.

Additionally, the website has links to videos and news articles which clarify the group’s position on social issues. Though the FARC is one of Latin America’s most well-known insurgencies, its website promotes “wisdom and patience” in their conflict with the government. In a section addressed to soldiers and police, the FARC states that in other circumstances, “the groups could have been friends.” Moreover in an effort to demonstrate that the FARC is a gender-friendly entity, the FARC created a webpage last October dedicated to the female members of the movement. A FARC statement regarding the creation of the website “Mujer Fariana” declares that, “without a doubt, in the FARC, female guerrillas found a great number of possibilities to be recognized as women, social fighters, political individuals, as fighters against every kind of discrimination and exploitation.”

Additionally, the FARC has had a Twitter account since 2011, boasting more than 22,000 followers. On their profile, the group claims to fight for “a just Colombia with equality for everyone.” The FARC’s most recent tweets came from August 2013, when the group announced that it would no longer post on the site. It seemed that officials had attempted to track the account. The authors thanked Twitter for its support and announced that the Colombian people would be the FARC’s official voice from then on. The group tweeted that it would march for the countryside, “without looking back.”

Some FARC fighters also have their own Twitter accounts, such as Ivan Marquez, a member of the FARC’s Secretariat. Unlike the FARC’s official Twitter, Marquez’s account remains active (though it is unclear whether the guerrilla actually composes his own tweets). For example, a June 10 tweet states: “The ongoing electoral race for the presidency has been one of the most shameful in the history of the country.” Marquez’ tweet provoked some strong replies from individuals who begged Marquez to stop his harsh commentary.

Finally, the FARC has a YouTube account that gained prominence when the FARC and the Cuban rap group Cuentas Claras made a video entitled “Colombianos Pa’ La Mesa” (Colombians to the Table). The song’s lyrics critique the government’s participation in the ongoing peace talks. It argues that the FARC is fighting for “shoeless kids,” while the government only wants to protect “its businesses.” The video features two FARC fighters: an old insurgent commander and a Dutch female citizen who went to Colombia to teach and ended up joining the FARC.

On the whole, the FARC’s online presence, while impressive, is inconsistent. As previously mentioned, the FARC no longer has an active Twitter account. Furthermore, the FARC’s webpages sometimes go offline (most likely due to the efforts of the Colombian government). At the time of this writing, both the FARC’s main site and the Mujer Fariana website are inactive. Moreover, it is unclear whether the FARC’s various websites have improved its public relations. While the general population seems to approve of the governments’ ongoing peace talks with the FARC, popular opinion towards the FARC itself remains low.

The FARC is not Colombia’s only insurgent group that has an online presence. The ELN also has a website, which shares the group’s history and ideology. As with the FARC site, the ELN webpage has a form that enables the public to send inquiries to the group’s leaders. The page also features news articles describing its activities and recommendations for videos, music, and literature. On the front page, the site quotes Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez: “what matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” It seems the page is meant to share the country’s events through the lens of the ELN’s ideology.

Mexico: The Bloody Narco Blogs

In Mexico, drug trafficking organizations comprise the most prevalent violent movements. Mexico’s local media outlets fail to sufficiently cover accounts of cartel violence. This media self-censorship is unsurprising; Mexican cartels have made a hobby of killing media editors or journalists that air stories critiquing their actions. The competition between the media and the cartels culminated in September 2010 when El Diario de Juarez, a newspaper operating in one of Mexico’s violent cities, published an op-ed asking drug cartels for a “truce.” The Juarez newspaper agreed to limit its unfavorable coverage of cartels if the cartels promised to stop killing its staff.

Due to problems of fear and corruption associated with traditional news outlets, Mexican citizens have turned to the Internet for information regarding the ongoing internal drug war in their country. Narco-blogs, for example, originally appeared when citizen journalists tried to cover stories of violence. These authors would publish quick articles with photos and amateur videos soon after an incident took place. The publications served to inform the public of the actions of the cartels.

However, cartels soon infiltrated this informal online arena and began killing bloggers and forum moderators of sites that published stories on the narcos. In September 2011, for instance, a man and a woman were hanged from a bridge in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas after their eyes and fingers had been cut off. Coverage by CNN reported that a sign was found on the bodies, threatening those who used the Internet to report on organized crime. Two months later, the body of a forum moderator known as El Rascatripas was found decapitated at the foot of a Columbus statue in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The murderers placed a sign above the body that read, “I’m Rascatripas and this happened to me for failing to understand that I should not report things on social media websites.”

Moreover, cartels have also been known to post videos of executions and executed bodies to scare off their opponents. Members also use social media to boast about their own sadistic actions. As example of this narco-goriness is the website, which has a compilation of videos made by different Cartels. One video shows a member of the Zetas decapitating a woman who was believed to be a member of the Gulf Cartel. Another video shows the Zetas interrogating a police officer from Durango. In the final seconds of the video, the officer was shot in the head. Mexican cartels are also known to hire musical bands to sing songs of praise for them. These have become known as “narco corridos” (narco songs), and many can be found on YouTube.

Individual cartel members have also been known to brag about their actions. One Knights Templar member, who calls himself “Broly,” posted selfies with victims and weapons on his Facebook page last year. Likewise, Alfredo Guzmán, the son of former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, also had an active online presence until his father was arrested this February. On the positive side, the news agency Business Insider notes that the online presence of cartel members may enable law enforcement agencies to capture them. However, such prospects seem optimistic.

Other Groups

One additional insurgent movement that has its own website is Venezuela’s obscure Armed Liberation Forces (FBL). According to the security news agency InSightCrime, the FBL is a guerrilla movement that operates in western Venezuela, close to the border with Colombia. InSightCrime explains that, unlike other insurgent movements, the FBL has generally avoided clashing with the government and has supported the government of the late President Hugo Chávez.

The website is hosted by the blogging site Blogspot, and its content includes a history of the organization and various press releases. For example, a June 5 press release on the website claims that FBL fighters activated smoke bombs in various areas of Caracas, including the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance. “This action was not aimed at hurting anyone, or destroy private or public property, but to promote action,” the press release explains. Namely, the group was calling for popular protests against the “oligarchy” that brought about the ongoing crisis in Venezuela. However, Últimas Noticias only reports that pamphlets were found in the areas mentioned. Apparently no actual attack took place, though the ensuing tension resulted in an increase in security and police forces around the city.

There are certainly other criminal groups that operate in the Latin American region, such as the insurgency groups in Peru and Paraguay and the Maras in Central America. However, the authors of this article have not found any online presence that we can verify that is associated with these organizations.


In “New Terrorism and New Media,” Professor Weimann argues that terrorists use the Internet to distribute propaganda, radicalize the population, and recruit followers. When it comes to Latin America, it seems the region’s criminal organizations have a much more limited online presence. One cannot be certain whether individuals have been inspired to join insurgency groups like the FARC, ELN, and FBL, or other drug trafficking organizations, because of their websites or Twitter accounts. However, the online forums these organizations use certainly have not hurt their causes.

Propaganda is definitely one important objective of the criminal groups who use online resources. At the very least, the websites of groups like the FARC, ELN, and FBL put forward a “noble” version of their history and struggle against their governments. The internet provides these narco-insurgencies a chance to tell their side of the story when news outlets focus only on the violence that comes from their existence. For this reason, modern technology has made a difference in the ongoing power struggle between narco-insurgencies and governments.

As for the Mexican narcos, uploading videos of cartel members executing individuals (either from opposing cartels or security forces) seems to be more of a way to demonstrate a cartel’s power. Yet the Internet has helped to romanticize the narco lifestyle in Mexico in recent years. There are worrying reports that Mexican youth now wish to grow up to become narcos due to their power and extravagant lifestyles. The fact that narco-corrido songs are now online also contributes to the propaganda machine of cartels. In this way, the internet has also enabled drug cartels to tell their own side of history.

Ultimately, the online presence of Latin American violent movements may not be as extensive as the Islamic extremist movements mentioned in Weimann’s report. However, insurgency movements and cartels have begun to use the internet and social media for their own purposes. These resources have enabled criminal organizations to share their stories, whether this be the nobility of their causes or the extravagance of their lifestyles.

W. Alejandro Sánchez is a Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs where he focuses on geopolitics, military, and cyber security issues. He regularly appears in different media outlets like Al Jazeera, Russia Today, BBC, El Comercio (Peru), and Voice of Russia, among others. His analyses have appeared in numerous refereed journals including Small Wars and Insurgencies, Defence Studies, the Journal of Slavic Military Studies, European Security, Studies in Conflict, and Terrorism and Cuban Affairs.

Kelly Morrison is an undergraduate student at Lee University where she studies Spanish and International Relations. Ms. Morrison is currently working as a Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC.